Just Say No to the Fetish of Interdisciplinarity?

Jerry Jacobs, a Penn professor, is the kind of smart guy who I find worth listening to even when my first impression of what he is up to is negative. In his new book, In Defense of Disciplines: Interdisciplinarity and Specialization in the Research University (University of Chicago Press), he marshals evidence and analysis to question the contemporary enthusiasm for all things interdisciplinary. He counsels skepticism and questions whether fields that are most open to external ideas are in fact the most intellectually dynamic. 

Perhaps most relevant to the small college ecosystem is his argument that erasing disciplinary boundaries is more a organizational strategy than an intellectual one. It often involves ceding control from faculty to administration over budgets, hiring, and curriculum; it is a manifestation of the managerial ideology prevalent in higher education rather simply an idea whose time has come. 

From Inside Higher Ed

Smart Institutional Practices Around Interdisciplinary Hiring

Interesting misleading headline in this article from COHE.  Gist of the story is folks at North Carolina State University recognized that cross-disciplinary hiring challenges organizational status quo – especially department level control of resources – and that this manifests in, among other places, tenure and promotion.  Their response was to take the bull by the horns and create evaluation process and funding scheme to attenuate these effects.  No small part of the challenges emerge from departmental understanding that a primary component of their raison d’être is producing basic research.  As definitions of what that means shift change can be expected.  And over time we can expect that colleges that do not have primary research results as a fundamental output will catch on in the spirit of “if they can do it, maybe we can too.”

Read more at COHE